We hear a lot about the growing obesity problem in America, but it is really a worldwide phenomenon and one that is hitting the oil patch. Oil and Gas UK, the British counterpart to API, said in its 2014 health and safety report that the average weight of offshore workers in the UK has jumped by 19 percent since the 1980’s.
What are the implications of this for the oil and gas industry? Certainly increased health concerns like heart disease and diabetes. In the offshore world, there is a new concern involving helicopters. In the aftermath of a catastrophic helicopter accident last year, the UK is concerned about whether oilfield workers who are too large are able to escape from a downed chopper. Interim measures included size restrictions on passengers. Oil and Gas UK is currently researching the problem with a study on 600 oilfield workers. The study involves computer modeling and creating 3D mannequins to study the best way to improve helicopter egress.
Oil companies in Europe may have another problem that U.S. companies don’t. According to Ledingham Chalmers, a British law firm, an EU judge is considering whether to treat being substantially overweight as a “protected characteristic” under EU employment law. that would apparently prevent employers from taking any action that could be considered discriminatory against overweight workers. You can read more about the issue here.